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Polyetherimide foam lowers aircraft weight to improve fuel efficiency


Higher fuel prices have given an impetus to develop lower weight materials for aircrafts. In the quest to reduce fuel costs, airlines are scrutinizing every component of a plane for potential weight reduction. SABIC Innovative Plastics, recently introduced Ultem polyetherimde in the cellular form which is flame retardant and has very low smoke emission toxicity which is 10-20 times lighter than traditional plastic components. It is an ideal core material for composite structures such as luggage bins, galleys and lower wall panels. It is an exceptionally lightweight material with a host of other desirable properties, engineered to meet the customers' requirements. It will provide an overall fuel efficiency.
It is based on Ultem polyetherimide (PEI) resin and has a density of 10 to 30 times less than the traditional material. Three densities foam grades have been developed. They are:
Ultem XP060 foam - 60 kg/m3 (3.8 lb/ft3)
Ultem XP080 foam - 80 kg/m3 (5lb/ft3)
Ultem XP110 foam - 110 kg/m3 (6.9 lb/ft3).
All three grades will be manufactured as foam boards by SABIC Innovative Plastics for global customers. The boards are suitable for a number of composite manufacturing processes including machining, vacuum bagging, compression molding, and thermoforming. It is compatible with metals and thermoset laminate materials, potentially eliminating adhesives and other secondary operations that are common to the aircraft industry.
The new Ultem foam meets Ohio State University (OSU) performance levels below 50/50, as well as offering excellent acoustic, dielectric and thermal properties. It has demonstrated noise reduction coefficients of greater than 0.3 and it also features low moisture absorption, which may eliminate edge filling in some interior applications. This eliminates secondary operations and further reduces weight, which is an important benefit in the aerospace industry where every kilogram of weight savings can add up to thousands of dollars in fuel savings.

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